- Do you need help filling out the papers?
- Sure, it couldn't hurt. What kind of papers?
- Visa application. Are you here to get a visa?
- They are going to take away my passport, so I may need a visa.
- Why are they taking your passport? Are you an American Citizen?
- Yes. When you apply for an emergency loan they confiscate your passport.
- Anyway you don't need a visa to your own country.
- What can I do for you?
- I saw on the Embassy's site that you provide emergency repatriation loans. I would like to apply.
- Are you destitute?
- Probably. What's the definition?
- No money to buy a ticket home and no way to get the money.
- I fulfill the requirements. What next?
- You have to prove that you've made an attempt to get the money.
- You have to provide the names of 3 people you have asked and who have refused. Can you do that?
- Sure. There are billions of people I can ask and be refused.
- You have to put it in writing.
- I can do it.
- Give me your passport. We'll do a background check. Take a seat.
- My colleague explained something of your situation. I'd like to ask you for more information.
- You're the Vice Consul?
- Yes. You said you have no money. Can you tell me how this situation arose?
- Whole life story or shorter?
- Start with the most recent events. When did you arrive in this country?
- About 4 months ago.
- What have you been doing?
- Reading and writing. Not employed.
- Were you employed in the United States before you came here?
- No. Doing the same. Reading and writing.
- Do you normally live in Europe or the United States?
- For the past about 20 years, mostly Europe.
- With trips back to the United States.
- How long were you in the United States last time?
- About 9 months.
- Where did you live?
- With friends.
- And before that?
- Here. I was tutoring business executives in English.
- For how long?
- 4 months. And then United States again.
- Are you married?
- Yes. Possibly.
- My wife disappeared, then wrote me that she'd obtained a divorce.
- Do you know you wife's name?
- What if I answer No?
- You don't know your wife's name?
- I'll spell it for you. Do you want to find her for me?
- We're the government but we can't do everything.
- You know, forget about the repatriation loan, just find my wife.
- When was the last time you saw her?
- A year, maybe year and a half ago. Look, is it true you're going to take away my passport if you decide to give me a repatriation loan?
- Yes, it is.
- Couldn't I use, just temporarily, the passport of one of the directors of Goldman Sachs, or General Electric, or Bank Of America? The government took away their passports when they loaned them $900 Billion after they lost all their money in bad investments. They took away their passports, right? They didn't?
- We're not open tomorrow, and over the weekend, and on Monday, an American holiday. Are you going to be alright?
- Where will you be going when you arrive in Los Angeles?
- I don't know.
- You have to provide an address. We can't arrange your travel without knowing you have a place to go.
- Why not?
- We are here to help.
- Are you concerned about my address here if I don't leave?
- We'll try to help.
- Before we can issue a repatriation loan and buy your ticket you have to provide an arrival address.
- I did.
- It can't be a hotel.
- Why not?
- It has to be your residence.
- It will be my residence.
- It has to be your own, or belonging to someone we can contact.
- It's a residential hotel. The address is on my driver's licence. They know me there.
- Show me your driver's licence. What is the manager's name?
- No. We need to be able to talk with someone who will be responsible for you.
- We need to know you will be safe.
- Why? I'm not safe if I stay in Europe.
- As I said, you need to provide us the name of someone who will take care of you when you return to the U.S.
- If I knew someone like that would I now be applying for an emergency loan?
- Then we can't help you.
- How long would this person have to be responsible for me? My whole life? One year? One month? A week?
- Several weeks.
- And there is no explanation for this demand?
- I don't have to explain.
- Why not?
- It's the rules.
- It can't be. What rule?
- This conversation is over.
A reader of spy stories never thinks life will become one. Of course not. That would take all the fun out of it. You'll understand then that this was not fun:
The appointment was for one pm. I waited outside the steel perimeter fence. Usual crowd of security, plus two additional city police standing immobile just within the fence looking out at me. Only at me. You have to wait, said the Embassy employed local security. After about twenty minutes the Vice Consul arrived from the embassy building, ordered the gate opened, and I was allowed to enter between the two steel fences. There, with the security forces and police and Vice Consul looking on, or staring to be precise, a crowd of about 8 or 10, all within a couple yards of me, I was handed a mobile phone to talk with my brother.
To make it all more incomprehensible my brother was apparently talking from his car using a hands-free system and I couldn't understand more than one word in ten he spoke. After about five minutes of me saying, "I can't hear you, it's all garbled, can you hear me?" my brother said he would put on a headset. He did and I could hear him. He proceeded to ask me questions he already knew the answer to from talking to the Vice-Consul about me: why did I want to go to the U.S.? (I'm American), What I am going to do there? (Don't know), Why I don't stay in Hungary, it's cheaper there? (I'm not Hungarian). He had nothing to respond to my answers. Like filling out a form. Finally I said, Anything else? He asked me what the purpose of the call was. I said I didn't know, he'd have to ask the Vice Consul. He arranged it.
My brother asked me to put the Vice Consul back on the phone. I handed the phone to him and l left the Embassy inter-fence territory. I hadn't spoken a work to the Vice Consul other than, "Here's your phone". I did say to the security forces, "let me out of here!"
According to Wikipedia the political title Consul is used for the official representatives of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries.
Their web site warns Americans that the Consulate does not involve itself with the personal, business, or legal affairs of citizens abroad.
If you would like to talk to the Embassy, not the Consulate, and ask if anyone there knows the Consulate says it actually doesn't do anything other than disperse social security and issue foreigners visas, you will be told you can't talk to the Embassy. Can't talk to the Embassy? / No, you can't.
And when the Consulate forbid me to enter the building - I'd committed the crime of saying they weren't right - they instructed the guards also to forbid me entrance to the Embassy, located on the same building. That can't be legal I complained to the guards outside. / That's our orders. / Who are they? Not even Americans. Let me talk to an American. / You can't. / I can't talk to an American at the American Embassy and I can't enter the American Embassy? / No, you can't.
Next I visit the office of a former American Ambassador.
Next day the application for a repatriation loan is approved. Meanwhile a month has passed and the "arrival address" I had to provide the Consulate, complete with the legally documented occupant of that address (confirmed by consular interrogation) taking financial responsibility for my immediate future, has fallen through.
Next a European native talks on the phone for me with my so-called wife's mother. My mother in law (maybe) tells him I'd been declared missing and a divorce had been issued. I then let the Embassy know this in case they want to find my (impossibly) European-divorced wife and ask her why she left me in troubles they, the government, apparently will spend any amount of time getting out of having to deal with.
Next is Spy vs. spy. The U.S. Government, presently one of my most dedicated readers, site stats. say has just been here where you are now. I see too Israel has had the same idea, reading a post about my attempt to get a visa from them the year before.
Israel also wanted also to know all about my marriage. A Facebook message from the so-called wife had told me our marriage had been annulled, so I told the Israelis that. They said they wanted the papers. I said I had no way of getting them from my disappeared wife, and in any case annulment meant no legal standing thus the marriage should not be their concern.
I explained I didn't know whether there'd really been an annulment or if the original marriage was legitimate. But, I told the Israelis, since all you know about the marriage comes from me I say here and now that all I know about the marriage is that it has no legal standing. Believe it or not I won the battle and the visa was issued, though I never went.
Next imagine the great big U.S. Government reading about this so-called possibly annulled marriage, about my so-called wife, who according to a family friend had newly married in the U.S. "some old man" on the basis of this so-called annulment. Imagine the great big U.S. government throwing up their collective hands in frustration and amazement.
Next the Embassy reverses itself and denies the repatriation loan. Upon reconsideration I do not meet the qualifications.
2. Legal Crime
This is the story of two brothers and what is known as legal crime.
If banks sell investments to their customers telling them they are good and at the same time invest their own money in bets that the investments are bad, that is a crime. Exactly what category of crime is not immediately obvious to those of us who are not lawyers. It is obvious to lawyers, however, and the government may or may not get around to prosecuting the banks.
Legal crime is also in my family, and I wonder how much my experience is unique, how far business life has corrupted private life. Here is my family story:
One of my brothers, his name is Todd, was the executor of our mother's estate. His full name is Todd Miller. He is an architect in Ventnor, New Jersey. The estate wasn't very large because Todd and my other brother had earlier transferred most of the family property into their two names to avoid paying inheritance tax. When our mother died Todd wrote to me that though I would be the only beneficiary there was hardly any money left after his expenses, and if I demanded an accounting he would pay his lawyer to take the entire estate in his legal fees. That is what he did. Legal crime.
With immense banks doing it in an immense scale you can be pretty sure no one bothers with the legal crime of a Ventnor, New Jersey architect like Todd Miller, A.I.A.
But legal crimes sometimes do get corrected. Even big ones. The actual present Constitution of the United states was one such legal crime. The Articles of Confederation required the vote of all the state congresses for its amendment. The Constitution, however, required ratification of only 10 out of the 13 states, and by popular vote, not by the state congresses. It was "legal", but not at all if you look into it, but who was looking into it?
However much of the crime was atoned for by the 1st and other amendments in the next years.Now the U.S. Government has also gotten involved in my own family's small legal crime, and maybe there will be a little correction.
The American Embassy is making me an emergency repatriation loan. To qualify you have to provide the names of people who you have contacted and will not help you return to the U.S. from abroad. I am abroad. In Budapest. I gave them the names of my brothers.
The government very, very much does not want to make this kind of loan, and the Embassy has made it absolutely clear to me. I have mentioned to the Embassy my brother's legal crime and suggested they collect for me. They scheduled a telephone call between me and my brother to occur on the Embassy grounds the next week.
The telephone call is not a success. It's been 5, 6 years. My brother makes small talk. I answer politely and wait for him to offer to return the money, not force the goverment to make the emergency loan. He doesn't. He suggests I stay in Europe because it is cheaper. He seems to have no understanding that everyone is not a millionaire like himself, and that being in a cheaper place with no money is not an advantage.
Probably the banks are the same way. Everyone is a millionaire and it's all a game.
3. Why They Steal
- How did you get yourself into this position?
- I thought the world owed me a living. It seemed to be true. Then it stopped being true.
- What happened?
- "Nice guys finish last." That's what I heard this morning from the head of an Israeli defense institute. Israel isn't nice. It is strong, and has the will to use its strength.
- Blunt words.
- Yes. He said the Arabs aren't like Europeans. Europeans made union and peace with each other after war in which the losers' cities were burned to the ground. That's why European nations can talk with each other. Israel can't talk with its neighbors because their cities haven't been burned to the ground. They aren't ready to talk. They intend to fight their war to the end.
- So you are too nice?
- After the lecture I remarked to the escort from the embassy it was good for once to hear the truth about politics. He said diplomats always lie. He himself was a diplomat.
- You are nice and polite like a diplomat, that's what you're trying to tell me? And people walk all over you.
- No, unfortunately not. I'm not a diplomat. And it gets me into trouble.
- Go on.
- The institute head said the Arabs cannot be reasoned with because their institutions are too corrupt, their societies are organized by tribes, militaries, and fanatical Islamic organizations. They cannot keep peace even if they wanted to.
- He says they are primitive.
- "Barbarians" was his word. But put it this way: everyone makes a choice in how they talk and act. Either they talk for the joy of telling the truth and seeing things clearly, act from the joy of making a beautiful life. Or talk and act to make something happen, to get things, without concern for truth of words or beauty of life. Once you give up on the idea of truth and beauty there really is no reason not to steal.
- And the Arabs speak and act against truth and beauty?
- So he says. They have no institutions, what is known now as "civil society", protecting them.
- What does this have to do with your brother?
- It has to do with being nice, and not being diplomatic. That's my combination, and it's a disaster.
- Go on.
- There isn't much more to say. It's like this. When you are dealing with barbarians there is no purpose in telling the truth and making a show of beauty in your life. There can't be a response. You're talking to yourself. Really there's no need to talk at all, but if you do, do it with diplomacy.
- Yes. Most of my life, life did owe me a living. I told the truth and made my life as beautiful as I could. I wrote down some of it in stories as true and beautiful as I could make them. But -
- Those stories weren't diplomatic!
- They offended.
- Yes! But what was I to do? I was getting away with it! So I continued.
- What changed?
- The world changed, I changed, my family changed, my friends changed: I don't know. Or I do, really. What changed was that I was paying the world for my living, effortlessly, by telling and living the stories. Truth and beauty had some exchange value. Now apparently they don't.
- Don't think you're a little arrogant with these claims?
- As I said the world owed me a living. It paid up.
- And now it won't.
- And now my brother steals.
- And since the world has stopped being hospitable you need the inheritance he stole.
- He thinks he doesn't owe me a living.
- And you can't convince him to change his mind? No, you're no diplomat.
- No. It's war.
- And you're not so nice after all.
4. Letter From A Friend
A friend thinks it's possible my brother is a human being and tries to reason with him....
To: Todd Miller
Date: Sunday, April 1, 2012, 2:28 PM
After our phone conversation several weeks ago I immediately passed on what you said to Rex the best I could remember.You did say I could tell him what we discussed. This past week Rex asked me to write to you. He said he does not accept your claim that as executor of your mother's estate you have the right to spend the entire estate on legal fees to pay a lawyer to deny him an accounting. He feels you never turned over any documents of any kind in defiance of the law. He has begun publicizing these facts on the internet.
Rex also told me if you type your business name into Google, or Bing you will see his story about you on the first page. Rex said a lawyer David Woodruff, graduate of USC and UC Berkeley School of Law, has called you and offered to mediate between you and Rex, and you have not responded.
I think you should contact Mr. Woodruff and settle this issue between you and Rex. I believe this will stop Rex from posting more things about you and you should also ask for him to remove all past posted comments about you and your company. If you want me to help in any way with this situation I will.
Good luck and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.